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Was Austria’s Decision Right?

Did the Austrian government arrive at the right decision by giving political concessions to the two Arab terrorists? This was the controversial question passionately discussed today by Austrian politicians, journalists and the public.

In a late night television interview Chancellor Bruno Kreisky underlined once more his Cabinet’s decision to close down the transit camp at Schoenau and to end facilities for groups of Soviet Jews emigrating to Israel.

“I personally believe that we would sooner or later have had to order a modification of this policy because of the situation which was developing,” Kreisky said. He added: “We are not forbidding transit to anyone, we only cease offering facilities. Anything else is dramatization.”

Austrian officials say that Kreisky is determined to fully implement this new policy. They confirmed that the Austrian government had been thinking for some time about the possibility of at least gradually restricting the facilities for Jewish emigrants on Austrian territory.

KREISKY AWARE OF “SHOCK AND DISMAY”

Kreisky himself repeated his promise to let individual immigrants with visas pass through Austria but emphasized “We can no longer offer them any facilities because to do so invites armed men from all sides on our territory.” A government spokesman said Kreisky is aware of the “shock and dismay” expressed by the Israeli government. “He knew that the Israeli ambassador disagreed with Austria’s decision. The Israeli government’s reaction did not come unexpected.”

One of the other questions so far unanswered is: What nation could take over Austria’s role as a way-station for Soviet Jews? Jewish circles hope that Rumania would offer to step in. They argue that Rumania maintained relations with Israel after the Six-Day War. Rumania is also the only Socialist Eastern European country the airplanes of which fly to Israel.

Transit on a private basis as Kreisky said would cut down immigration to a minimum, political observers said. Austrian police said that security measures would be more difficult to be put to effect than ever. Israeli sources said it is doubtful if Kreisky will carry out his “promise” to the end. So far there have been no plans made to evacuate Schoenau which has served 70,000 Soviet Jews as a transit camp to date.

The management of Schoenau has plans for various improvements and intends to give a new coat of paint to various rooms. In Schoenau, which always looked more like a besieged castle with dozens of heavily armed policemen patrolling around the compound, security measures have been heavily stepped up. The number of policemen on permanent duty has been increased five-fold, police sources said. Reserve forces are stationed at Lobersdorf, a neighboring village.

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